The Disney parks have Mickey Mouse. The Universal parks have…. Well yes, they have Harry Potter. But the Boy Wizard and his Potter pals, like most of the parks' other characters and intellectual property, are licensed from other content providers. King Kong, however, is a Universal original.
For years, the big ape was the character perhaps most closely associated with the parks. He's been MIA from Universal Orlando since Revenge of the Mummy took over his old stomping grounds in 2004. But he'll be back where he belongs in summer 2016, when Skull Island: Reign of Kong opens at the resort's Islands of Adventure.
It's unclear exactly what form the attraction will take at this point, since Universal hasn't released much in the way of details. But, based on what has been divulged, industry chatter, and my own instincts, I can speculate.
It will probably be a mashup of the former Universal Studios Florida ride, Kongfrontation, which featured dimensional, practical sets and humungous animatronic representations of the big galoot, and the current King Kong 360 3-D, a media-based simulator attraction that is part of the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Expect Kong to make appearances both as a virtual, CGI-rendered character, likely to be projected in glorious high-definition 3-D (like the retooled The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man), and as a real animated character. As a nod to the original Kongfrontation, here's hoping the new version of the giant ape will also reek of banana breath.
I'd imagine the story will hew closer to the USH attraction in which Kong acts as a protector and wards off the prehistoric creatures threatening to attack the Studio Tour tram and its hapless passengers. For USF's Kongfrontation, the big guy himself was the aggressor. He caused general havoc in Manhattan and assaulted -- including a hefty huff of banana breath -- the Roosevelt Island aerial trams which guests boarded. Either way, Universal promises it will be a "fight for survival."
Whatever form Kong and his new attraction takes, it will almost surely be another in-your-face, rollicking, explosive attraction from Universal. If Mickey Mouse represents the sweet and innocent soul of the Disney parks, Kong epitomizes the wild, chaotic, we're-all-doomed! ethos of arch rival Universal.
The Universal film, Kong: Skull Island, is slated for release in 2017. Peter Jackson, who directed the 2005 version of King Kong, is helping to create the new attraction. An enormous show building which will house Skull Island Reign of Kong is under construction in the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure.
Befitting King Kong's enormous proportions, expect everything to be way larger than life in the new attraction. Instead of the generic Studio Tour trams used at Universal Studios Hollywood (or the Roosevelt Island aerial tram stand-ins that used to transport guests through the old Kongfrontation), the Islands of Adventure ride will feature newly designed ride vehicles. In the rendering supplied by Universal, the large vehicles appear to accommodate lots of passengers. It is likely that the vehicles will include motion bases that will allow them to move in sync with the projected action.
The trucks will enter a massive show building, pass through huge temple gates, and take guests on an expedition to the mysterious Skull Island, circa the 1930s. Passengers will encounter a slew of unusual -- and unusually aggressive -- creatures as well as the star of the show, King Kong.
Next: The Head of Skull Island
The Head of Skull Island
The ride vehicles will explore Skull Island and, apparently, pass through a tunnel above which a carving of King Kong will loom. Like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the new attraction will probably combine both real sets and projected media to immerse guests in its story.
Next: My Hero!
Kong is not about to let any pesky dinosaurs rip the ride vehicles or their passengers to shreds. Expect lots of action in the new attraction as the big ape and mysterious creatures mix it up.
Universal Orlando has lots of other new stuff on the way, including the super-duper Fast & Furious: Supercharged ride, its first on-property water park, Volcano Bay, and the motion simulator attraction, Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. All three are set to open in 2017.